Benchtop Lathe Gets An Electronic Leadscrew Makeover

The king of machine tools is the lathe, and if the king has a heart, it’s probably the leadscrew. That’s the bit that allows threading operations, arguably the most important job a lathe can tackle. It’s a simple concept, really – the leadscrew is mechanically linked through gears to the spindle so that the cutting tool moves along the long axis of the workpiece as it rotates, allowing it to cut threads of the desired pitch.

But what’s simple in concept can be complicated in reality. As [Clough42] points out, most lathes couple the lead screw to the spindle drive through a complex series of gears that need to be swapped in and out to accommodate different thread pitches, and makes going from imperial to metric a whole ball of wax by itself. So he set about building an electronic leadscrew for his lathe. The idea is to forgo the gear train and drive the leadscrew directly with a high-quality stepper motor. That sounds easy enough, but bear in mind that the translation of the tool needs to be perfectly synchronized with the rotation of the spindle to make threading possible. That will be accomplished with an industrial-grade quadrature encoder coupled to the spindle, which will tell software running on a TI LaunchPad how fast to turn the stepper – and in which direction, to control thread handedness. The video below has some great detail on real-time operating systems on microcontrollers as well as tests on all the hardware to be used.

This is only a proof of concept at this point, but we’re looking forward to the rest of this series. In the meantime, [Quinn Dunki]’s excellent series on choosing a lathe should keep you going.

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Hack Chat: The Home Machine Shop with Quinn Dunki

Join us Wednesday at noon Pacific time for the Home Machine Shop Hack Chat!

Even if you haven’t been here for very long, you’ll probably recognize Quinn Dunki as Hackaday’s resident consulting machinist. Quinn recently did a great series of articles on the “King of Machine Tools”, the lathe, covering everything from the history of precision machine tools to making your first chips. She’s documented the entire process of procuring and setting up a new lathe, pointing out all the potential pitfalls the budding home machinist may face. You can get a much deeper dive into her machining adventures on her YouTube channel, Blondihacks.

Flinging hot metal chips around is hardly all Quinn has accomplished, though. Long before her foray into machine tools, there was Veronica, a scratch-built 6502 machine Quinn created as an homage to the machines that launched her into a life of writing software. We’ve featured Veronica on our pages a couple of times, and she’s always made quite a hit.

Please join us for this Hack Chat, where we’ll discuss:

  • How developing software and machining are alike, and how they differ;
  • How social networks have changed the perception of machining;
  • Best practices for getting started in machining; and
  • Are there any new machine tool purchases in the pipeline?

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Home Machine Shop Hack Chat and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.

join-hack-chatOur Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week we’ll be sitting down on Wednesday, March 20, at noon, Pacific time. If time zones have got you down, we have a handy time zone converter.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io. You don’t have to wait until Wednesday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Become the Next Fabergé With a Rose Engine Lathe

The basics of a skill may take a long time to master, but there is always something else to learn about regardless of the craft. Building a piece of fine furniture out of hardwood or being able to weld together a bicycle from scratch are all impressive feats, but there are fine details that you’ll only learn about once you get to this level of craftsmanship. One such tool that will help with these intricacies is known as the rose engine lathe.

This tool is based on an average lathe, typically used for creating round things out of stock which is not round. A rose engine lathe has a set of cams on it as well which allow the lathe to create intricate patterns in the material it’s working with, such as flower type patterns or intricate spirals. One of the most famous implementations of this method was on the Fabergé eggs. While this might make it sound overly complex, this how-to actually shows you how to build your own rose engine lathe out of a piece of MDF and a large number of miscellaneous pieces of hardware.

We recently featured another build which performs a similar function called engine turning. While similar, this is the method responsible for creating overlapping spirals on a piece of metal. Either way, both projects are sure to spice up your metal or woodworking endeavors.

Thanks to [PWalsh] for the tip!

A No-Cost, Heavy Metal Lathe From Junkyard Parts

We have to admit that our first thought on seeing a Frankenlathe made from old engine blocks was that it was a set piece from a movie like The Road Warrior. And when you think about it, the ability to cobble together such a machine tool would probably make you pretty handy to have around in an apocalypse.

Sadly, surviving the zombie mutant biker uprising seemed not to be the incentive for [Paul Kuphaldt]’s version of the [Pat Delany] “Multimachine”. He seemed to be in it for the money, or more precisely from the lack of it. He was shooting for a zero-dollar build, and although he doesn’t state how close he came, we’re going to guess it was pretty close. The trick is to find big castings for the bed and headstock – Mopar slant 6 blocks in this case. The blocks are already precision machined dead flat and square, and the cylinder bores provide ample opportunities for stitching the castings together. The drivetrain comes from a 3-speed manual transmission, a 3/4-ton Chevy truck axle donated the spindle, and a V8 cylinder head was used for the cross slide. The tailstock seems to be the only non-automotive part on the machine.

We’d love to see a video of it in action, but there are ample pictures on [Paul]’s website to suggest that the heavy castings really make a difference in keeping vibration down. Don’t get us wrong – we love cast aluminum Gingery lathes too. But there’s something substantial about this build that makes us feel like a trip to the boneyard.

[via r/homemadetools]

To Make Reproduction Train Whistles, The Old Ways Are Best

Late last year, artist [Steve Messam]’s project “Whistle” involved 16 steam engine whistles around Newcastle that would fire at different parts of the day over three months. The goal of the project was bring back the distinctive sound of the train whistles which used to be fixture of daily life, and to do so as authentically as possible. [Steve] has shared details on the construction and testing of the whistles, which as it turns out was a far more complex task than one might expect. The installation made use of modern technology like Raspberry Pi and cellular data networks, but when it came to manufacturing the whistles themselves the tried and true ways were best: casting in brass before machining on a lathe to finish.

The original whistles are a peek into a different era. The bell type whistle has three major components: a large bell at the top, a cup at the base, and a central column through which steam is piped. These whistles were usually made by apprentices, as they required a range of engineering and manufacturing skills to produce correctly, but were not themselves a critical mechanical component.

In the original whistle shown here, pressurized steam comes out from within the bottom cup and exits through the thin gap (barely visible in the image, it’s very narrow) between the cup and the flat shelf-like section of the central column. That ring-shaped column of air is split by the lip of the bell above it, and the sound is created. When it comes to getting the right performance, everything matters. The pressure of the air, the size of the gap, the sharpness of the bell’s lip, the spacing between the bell and the cup, and the shape of the bell itself all play a role. As a result, while the basic design and operation of the whistles were well-understood, there was a lot of work to be done to reproduce whistles that not only operated reliably in all types of weather using compressed air instead of steam, but did so while still producing an authentic re-creation of the original sound. As [Steve] points out, “with any project that’s not been done before, you really can’t do too much testing.”

Embedded below is one such test. It’s slow-motion footage of what happens when the whistle fires after filling with rainwater. You may want to turn your speakers down for this one: locomotive whistles really were not known for their lack of volume.

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Lathe’s Tool Holder Holds a Rotary Tool

What is better than a tool? Two. What is better than two? Two tools tooling together. [tintek33] wanted a rotary tool to become an attachment on his mini lathe, the video is also below the break. Fortunately, Dremels and Proxxons are built to receive accessories, or in this case, become one. Even if the exact measurements do not apply to your specific hardware, we get to see the meat of the procedure from concept to use.

We start with where the rotary tool should be and get an idea of what type of bracket will be necessary. The design phase examines the important dimensions with a sketch and then a CAD mock-up. Suitably thick material is selected, and the steps for pulling the tool from the raw stock are shown with enough detail to replicate everything yet there is no wasted time in this video. That is important if you are making a quick decision as to whether or not this is worth your hard work. Once the brace is fully functional and tested, it is anodized for the “summer ocean” blue color to make it easy to spot in the tool heap. Some complex cuts are made and shown close-up.

Thank you [jafinch78] for your comment on Take a Mini Lathe for a Spin and check out [tintek33] using his mini lathe to make a hydraulic cylinder for an RC snow plow.

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Strobe For Wood Turning Makes Inspection Easy

The lathe is a simple enough tool to understand, but requires much practice to truly master. During the turning process, it’s often necessary to inspect the workpiece. This generally necessitates stopping the lathe, waiting for everything to spin down, and then starting again. This can be a major time sink when added up across the full scope of a project. However, the magic of strobes can help.

The basics of [Darcy]’s project will be familiar to any hacker who has worked with rotating machinery before. The rotational speed of the lathe is measured, in this case using a reed switch and a magnet. This signal is fed to a microcontroller, which controls the strobing of an LED lamp. By synchronizing the flashes to the speed of the lathe, it’s possible to view the workpiece as if it were standing still. By adjusting the offset of the flashes to the position of the lathe, it’s also possible to rotate this view to see the entire workpiece – all while the lathe remains spinning.

Further photos and videos are available in the Reddit thread. [Darcy] reports that despite his best efforts, he couldn’t quite find a business case for producing the hardware commercially, but the idea was too useful to leave languishing in a notebook. We’d love to hear your ideas on how this could improve turning projects, so be sure to let us know in the comments. If you’re just getting started with turning, it might be worth cutting a test bar to make sure your rig is up to snuff.